About Trafficking

Trafficking or human trading is the trading of human beings. It means that someone has been forced, tricked or threatened with the purpose of being exploited in various ways.

Trafficking has increased during the last few decades and it’s often rightly called the modern slavery. Trading with humans is the third largest type of organized crime, after drug and weapon trafficking. It is also the fastest growing criminal activity. The Swedish Delegation for Human Rights state that approximately 80% of human trading are for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

UN’s definition

The UN’s Trafficking-Protocol states that a person is considered a victim of human trading when someone has violated their vulnerability with the purpose of exploitation.
According to the UN’s definition (The Palermo Protocol or The UN-Protocol), three criteria must be met in order for it to be considered a trafficking incident:

  • Trade arrangements such as recruiting, transport or housing
  • Inappropriate ways and means, such as threats, coercion or deception
  • The victim has been recruited with the purpose of being exploited

Countries which adopted (ratified) the protocol must criminalize human trading. In 2002, human trading for sexual purposes has been criminalized in Sweden.

Crimes against Human Rights

According to Joy Ngozi Ezeilo,  the United Nation’s Special Reporter on Human Trading, trafficking is a gross violation of human rights:

A human being has the right to freedom, dignity and to never be held captive as a slave. From experiences around the world, we can see that human trading is often related to violations of several other fundamental human rights. The right to be free from discrimination, torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, the right to be treated as an equal in a court of law, the right to privacy, freedom of movement, freedom of information, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and of association, to be free from forced labor, to enjoy justice and fair work conditions, to equal pay for equal work, to marry, to have good health, to your own body, to decide when to have children and the right to equality.

How Widespread is the Problem?

The problem is global but Europe has the highest amount of sex slaves per inhabitant. How did this happen?

The business is very profitable and the risks are few. It is easier and less risky to transport humans across borders than weapons and drugs. Several countries have an established market for prostitution. Laws which criminalize human trading for sexual purposes are relatively new in Europe.

The UN estimates that approximately 4 million people are trafficked around the world every year. About 1.2 million of whom are children, people below 18. According to a report from the UNODC, the human trade business earn 23 billion SEK per year.

The Swedish Sex Trade Law: Working Against Trafficking

The Swedish Sex Trade Law was adopted in 1998 with the aim of protecting people who have been forced to sell sexual services. Sweden was the first country in the world to criminalize the buyer, not the seller (the prostitute). Iceland and Norway followed the act in 2009.

With the law, Sweden addresses the demand for sexual services and prostitutes. The Swedish model is known globally and is often considered as a successful legislation.

The amount of people brought to Sweden for sexual purposes has diminished greatly since the law was put in effect. This is because the police is allowed to act and prevent sales of sexual services. The criminal organizations in Sweden make less profit and need to take more risks compared to those in other parts of Europe.

Studies also show that the amount of men who purchased sex, once or twice, has diminished. Since the introduction of the Sex Trade Law, the amount of buyers have shrunk from 1 out of 8 to 1 out of 12 men. Among German men, the figure is 1 out of 4.

The supply is governed by the demand and the demand for purchasing sexual services strengthens trafficking.

Prostitution and Trafficking

Human trafficking is illegal in most European countries, but buying sexual services from prostitutes is allowed. Research shows that the line between trafficking and prostitution is very thin:

  • Running a brothel is legal in the Netherlands. 80% of the women who work at brothels come from Eastern European countries and according to The International Organization of Immigration, they are probably victims of trafficking.
  • In Germany, where the sex industry is legal as well, there are over 400.000 prostitutes. Half of those are believed to be from other countries, primarily poor Eastern European countries.
  • The Amsterdam-based Child Right Organization states that the amount of child prostitutes have increased from 4000 to 15.000 during the exposure of the infamous RedLight District. Most of these child prostitutes are underage girls from Nigeria.
  • According to an international survey of prostitutes, 92% were raped at least once. 84% of them had been hurt physically and psychologically and as many as 72% suffered from PTSD. 98% of the prostitutes were homeless and 92% said they would quit prostitution if they had the opportunity.

More information

The Swedish government’s plan against prostitution and human trading for sexual purposes
MTV EXIT what is trafficking?
The international organization CATW works with informing and making a connection between trafficking and inequality
Nätverket mot trafficking (The Network against Trafficking)
Kvinnofronten (The Women’s Front) works with everything related to oppression of women
Prostitution Research and Education Website has information about prostitution, trafficking and arguments regarding why more countries should adopt the Swedish legislation
Sisyphe, a French website with several articles concerning prostitution.
Hubert Dubois, the producer of the documentary La vitrine hollandaise.

Books worth reading

Siddharth Karas’ book Sextrafficking Inside the business of Modern Slavery makes an interesting read. For a short version see the video clip.
Claudine Legardinier, editor for the magazine Prostitution et societé, has written many great books.
Kajsa Ekis Ekman about prostitution and surrogate motherhood Varat och varan
Natasja T. & Efron, Vera (2006) Såld. Saltsjö-Duvnäs: Efron & dotter
Olsson, Hanna (2005) Catrine och rättvisan. Stockholm: Pocky
Eek, Louise (2005) Att köpa eller köpas – frihet och makt i sexindustrin. Stockholm: Atlas
Eek, Louise (2001) Spelat liv. Stockholm: Atlas